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POP MUSIC REVIEW

L.A.'s Lifter Lapses Into Old Formula

July 17, 1996|RICHARD CROMELIN

Lyle Lovett isn't the only singer and songwriter to make a compelling album from the shards of a shattered relationship this year. There's also Mike Coulter, leader of the Los Angeles band Lifter. In "Melinda (Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt)," Coulter and his two bandmates focus single-mindedly on the residue of a romance, going for a grungy glory as the emotions open out into a resentment of a lifetime of broken promises.

Focus is one thing, but Lifter needs to find a little more range before it can make its live show work as well as the album. At the Viper Room on Monday, the band established its formula early and stuck with it--slow-building verses winding up into explosive choruses and freak-out instrumentals, the three-piece clamor pushing the vocals to breaking-point intensity.

It's the kind of post-Nirvana approach that bands such as Everclear, and now Lifter, have adapted into a personal language. Coulter's wry, detailed writing is touching and funny, and the ability of drummer John Rozas and bassist Jeff Sebelia to march slowly without plodding keeps things taut and dynamic.

But Coulter needs to vary the tone onstage, the way the album's production provides some nuance. At the Viper Room, the repetitive rise and fall kept the band from tapping the distinctive tenderness and vulnerability that have been generated by the departure of the mysterious Melinda.

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